Arguments against basic tenets of Buddhism

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Arguments against basic tenets of Buddhism

Postby WoodHorse » Tue Dec 04, 2012 2:37 pm

I often hear atheists say that they are against all religions. However, Buddhism is a religion that does not have a belief in an omnipotent cum omniscience God. What are the arguments that an atheist might have against Buddhism?
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Re: Arguments against basic tenets of Buddhism

Postby lucas11 » Tue Dec 04, 2012 8:41 pm

Not entirely sure what you mean by "against", but I would say I am against buddhism in the sense that it is not true and its followers should not get any special treatment, tax breaks etc. Although I think atheism is superior, the followers of buddhism certainly seem to cause less trouble than the followers of any other religion.

Arguments I have against buddhism are:
1) It asserts the existance of the supernatural including gods, demons, ghosts and various supernatural dimensions. Atheism is lack of belief in any gods, not just omnipotent ones.
2) Karma is false and simply a way of people trying to find meaning in the unfairness of life.
2i) The wealthy or poor situation that each person is born into is random and has nothing to do with karma from a previous life.
2ii) Similarly people are born disabled or healthy for a variety of medical reasons, not due to karma.
2iii) The good and bad things that happen to people in life are not karmic rewards or punishments.

I don't know any specific examples, but I find it hard to believe that buddhism isn't similar to other religions in that there are probably buddhist teachers purposely conning people out of money, clergy living on donations from the faithful so they can spend life meditating and a large body of fictional doctrine that people can waste their life learning and believing in.

Having said that, with buddhism or indeed any other religion, there can be some benefit from adopting the aspects that you like while ignoring the rest. Yoga has become popular in recent years simply as a form of exercise, but I believe that its original purpose was to enable the practitioner to sit still and meditate for long periods of time.
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Re: Arguments against basic tenets of Buddhism

Postby WoodHorse » Wed Dec 05, 2012 12:52 am

I will respond to your assertion that karma is false as this is related to a fundamental tenet of Buddhism, namely, dependent origination.

Karma as used in Buddhism refers to casuality. Karma, defined as such, is a subset of dependent origination.

Therefore karma merely asserts that anything, material or immaterial, that comes into existence must have a cause.

I don't think you will object to validity of casuality of the material objects you see around you. You probably also will not object to the validity of casuality as it applies to life or consciousness. What I think you objects to is the application of casuality to the cycling of life from one form to another.

In Buddhism, karma is not seen as a form of punishment or reward. Punishments and rewards are merely labels on consequences of our actions. In Buddhism, the consequences need not occur in the current life but can manifest in future lives. In a sense, it is a form of conservation law, much like the conservation of energy.
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Re: Arguments against basic tenets of Buddhism

Postby sepia » Wed Dec 05, 2012 5:07 pm

WoodHorse wrote:What are the arguments that an atheist might have against Buddhism?

I'm not so familiar with Buddhism. But what I know is that it is linked to the belief in reincarnation and this I find as unplausible as christian afterlife.

There are many forms of Buddhism since it has mixed with some other religions like Bon-Religion and Hinduism. I've read the Bardo Thodol, which contains many supernatural claims. So I think some buddhistic beliefs are as complex and as stupid as many monotheistic ones.
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Re: Arguments against basic tenets of Buddhism

Postby lucas11 » Thu Dec 06, 2012 12:05 am

I would certainly agree that anything that comes into existance must have a cause. I'm not sure what you mean by the validity of causality as it applies to life or consciousness, but I would say that for new life/consciousness to be created, there must be a cause such as someone giving birth.

I do not believe in reincarnation or multiple lives, so reject the idea that being born into bad circumstances is the result of karma. (It is my understanding that buddhism says that being born disabled or into a poor family are consequences of bad actions in a previous life. Please let me know if this is incorrect).

As you have stated below that the consequences of karma need not occur in the current life, I think you would agree that there are many people in the world who lead evil lives and yet do not suffer any consequences for this and vice versa for many people leading good lives. Since I believe the current life is the only one we have and there are many cases of lack of appropriate consequences for actions, I judge karma to be an inaccurate description of how things work.

Even if reincarnation was true, although the concept of karma would become logically valid, I see no way of testing whether it would actually be true or not (how would you test that appropriate consequences happened in a subsequent life?)

Also, if good actions have good consequences and bad actions have bad consequences, I do not see how this is different from saying that good actions have rewards and bad actions have punishments.
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Re: Arguments against basic tenets of Buddhism

Postby WoodHorse » Thu Dec 06, 2012 5:37 am

sepia wrote:There are many forms of Buddhism since it has mixed with some other religions like Bon-Religion and Hinduism. I've read the Bardo Thodol, which contains many supernatural claims. So I think some buddhistic beliefs are as complex and as stupid as many monotheistic ones.

Sorry, I guess I should have made it clearer that I was only interested in arguments against the basic tenets rather than arguments against the various cultural trappings of Buddhism.

sepia wrote:I'm not so familiar with Buddhism. But what I know is that it is linked to the belief in reincarnation and this I find as unplausible as christian afterlife.

If reincarnation is taken to mean something unchanging such as a soul is moved from one life to another, then no, it is not a Buddhist belief. This is because Buddhism holds that all phenomena are impermanent, ie. they change from moment to moment. However, Buddhism does hold that the current life of a being is causally linked to the future life of that being, and in that sense, reincarnation is held.
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Re: Arguments against basic tenets of Buddhism

Postby WoodHorse » Thu Dec 06, 2012 6:07 am

lucas11 wrote:I would certainly agree that anything that comes into existance must have a cause. I'm not sure what you mean by the validity of causality as it applies to life or consciousness, but I would say that for new life/consciousness to be created, there must be a cause such as someone giving birth.

There are two schools of thought here: one holds that consciousness is an emergent property of the brain, in which case, then a new consciousness arise with each birth. Another school of thought has it that the brain is merely a receiver of consciousness and therefore a birth of a child does not mean that a new consciousness has arisen. Most neuroscientists hold the former view but there are one or more well documented NDE (near death experience) case that challenged that view. There was a BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation) documentary on NDE where a particularly strong case of NDE was cited:
http://youtu.be/u8Ub2xx0KQ0


lucas11 wrote: (It is my understanding that buddhism says that being born disabled or into a poor family are consequences of bad actions in a previous life. Please let me know if this is incorrect).

Yes that understanding is correct for unenlightened beings. Unenlightened beings have no choice as to what and where they are born.


lucas11 wrote:Even if reincarnation was true, although the concept of karma would become logically valid, I see no way of testing whether it would actually be true or not (how would you test that appropriate consequences happened in a subsequent life?

In Buddhism, one acquires knowledge through three means (1) from an authority (2) from reasoning (3) from direct experience (direct experience as I understand it refers to experience obtained without being mediated by any of the six senses. In other words, experiences through the six senses are not ultimately true.) Pending knowledge from (3), knowledge from (1) and (2) are provisionally accepted. Unfortunately, the truth of karma is something that one can validate only through (3). In Buddhism, the weakest form of knowledge is (1).
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Re: Arguments against basic tenets of Buddhism

Postby Lausten » Thu Dec 06, 2012 12:31 pm

I would argue that experiencing anything after death and choosing where you are born are incoherent statements, completely unsupported by the evidence. If a religion uses those ideas, there is something fundamentally wrong with it.
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Re: Arguments against basic tenets of Buddhism

Postby sepia » Thu Dec 06, 2012 12:41 pm

WoodHorse wrote:Sorry, I guess I should have made it clearer that I was only interested in arguments against the basic tenets rather than arguments against the various cultural trappings of Buddhism.

Can you list some basic ideas of Buddhism?
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Re: Arguments against basic tenets of Buddhism

Postby WoodHorse » Thu Dec 06, 2012 2:25 pm

sepia wrote:Can you list some basic ideas of Buddhism?


I guess the most concise would be the "four seals":
All that is conditioned is impermanent,
All that is tainted is suffering,
All phenomena are empty and devoid of self,
Nirvana is peace.
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Re: Arguments against basic tenets of Buddhism

Postby WoodHorse » Thu Dec 06, 2012 11:54 pm

Lausten wrote:I would argue that experiencing anything after death and choosing where you are born are incoherent statements, completely unsupported by the evidence.

Do look at the BBC documentary on NDE that I mentioned earlier. Here's the link again http://youtu.be/u8Ub2xx0KQ0

If you don't wish to watch the whole thing, skip to 21:55 and start from there. There, the case of Pam Reynolds was described. This is the strongest anecdoctal evidence so far.
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Re: Arguments against basic tenets of Buddhism

Postby Lausten » Sat Dec 08, 2012 4:26 pm

And you even say that it is anecdotal, that's amazing. I have seen enough about NDE to know that is all there is. There is no actual evidence. No experiments that created data confirming it, whatever it is. What are you suggesting anyway? What does this lead to? What is the point? What does it have to do with Buddhism? Didn't the Buddha admonish his followers to stop worrying about the after life?

Feel free to answer any one of these, or consider all them rhetorical.
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Re: Arguments against basic tenets of Buddhism

Postby WoodHorse » Sun Dec 09, 2012 6:50 am

Lausten wrote:And you even say that it is anecdotal, that's amazing. I have seen enough about NDE to know that is all there is. There is no actual evidence. No experiments that created data confirming it, whatever it is. What are you suggesting anyway? What does this lead to? What is the point?

It suggests the possibility that certain part/aspect of mind can be exist separately from the brain as its own continuum as taught in Buddhism.

Lausten wrote: What does it have to do with Buddhism?
It suggests the possibility of the cycling through different forms of existence from one life to another as taught in Buddhism.

Lausten wrote: Didn't the Buddha admonish his followers to stop worrying about the after life?
No. If he did, he would not have talked about the impact of actions (physical, verbal and mental) of past and current lives in current and future lives. Anyway, Buddhist's ethics is based on the idea that there are consequences of one's actions on oneself and others, now and in the future, and in future lives.
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Re: Arguments against basic tenets of Buddhism

Postby sepia » Sun Dec 09, 2012 1:58 pm

WoodHorse wrote:It suggests the possibility that certain part/aspect of mind can be exist separately from the brain as its own continuum as taught in Buddhism.

No, it doesn't. The possibility is a priori there as long, as we don't know exactly how to define consciousness. For NDEs it is as useful as Creationism for irreducible conplexity. It is an idea surviving in the gaps of knowledge.

WoodHorse wrote:
Lausten wrote: What does it have to do with Buddhism?
It suggests the possibility of the cycling through different forms of existence from one life to another as taught in Buddhism.

So we can critizise Buddhism by critizising the idea of reincarnation. Exactly this is what I have done.

WoodHorse wrote:Anyway, Buddhist's ethics is based on the idea that there are consequences of one's actions on oneself and others, now and in the future, and in future lives.

If we don't know the consequences for future lives, this is useless for morality. Then we can use Ockham's Razor. If buddhists claim to know them, their morality is as bullshit, as christian morality based on the idea of sin. It is garbage in garbage out.
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Re: Arguments against basic tenets of Buddhism

Postby WoodHorse » Mon Dec 10, 2012 12:06 am

sepia wrote:
WoodHorse wrote:It suggests the possibility that certain part/aspect of mind can be exist separately from the brain as its own continuum as taught in Buddhism.

No, it doesn't. The possibility is a priori there as long, as we don't know exactly how to define consciousness.
You see it one way, I see it another. Let's agree to disagree here. Btw, Buddhism does define what consciousness is.

sepia wrote:For NDEs it is as useful as Creationism for irreducible conplexity. It is an idea surviving in the gaps of knowledge.
As I mentioned before, in Buddhism there are three ways that one acquire knowledge. For example, your friend describes to you the taste of a fruit that you have not come across and is not available at your location. If you have no reason to distrust your friend, you accept provisionally the existence of that fruit. This is knowledge based on authority. Then you do your own contemplation and research to check for the reasonableness of the claim of your friend. That will be knowledge based on reasoning. And if you make the journey yourself, acquire the fruit and taste it, that is direct knowledge. For Buddhism, all knowledge are provisional except for knowledge acquired by direct experience.


Lausten wrote: What does it have to do with Buddhism?
WoodHorse wrote:It suggests the possibility of the cycling through different forms of existence from one life to another as taught in Buddhism

sepia wrote:So we can critizise Buddhism by critizising the idea of reincarnation. Exactly this is what I have done.
That's fine with me. In Buddhism, each of us has to make our own discovery and we should not blindly accept what we are told.

sepia wrote:
WoodHorse wrote:Anyway, Buddhist's ethics is based on the idea that there are consequences of one's actions on oneself and others, now and in the future, and in future lives.

If we don't know the consequences for future lives, this is useless for morality. Then we can use Ockham's Razor. If buddhists claim to know them, their morality is as bullshit, as christian morality based on the idea of sin. It is garbage in garbage out.
Buddhism does teach the consequences of one's actions (knowledge based on authority). Buddhism also teaches that we are interconnected, so our actions not only impact ourselves, but others as well. I don't think you object to this in principle. What you probably object to is the extension of the principle across various lifetimes. That's fine with me. Let's agree to disagree.
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